Endless Possibilities!

Thursday, February 27, 2014 4 comments
from one crazed curly...Lori

You totally deserve this post because you totally deserve a break! This reading strategy will automatically rope students in with engagement and will spark interest in the reading, encouraging students to actually...I don't know...READ!

Thanks to our recent training with Kylene Beers, I've found one of the best pre, during, and post strategies I've ever used! It's nice for you because once you set it in motion, you can sit back and watch it work beautifully (for a bit). And, it gives them the practice they need to (1) enter a text with a set of expectations, and (2) monitor and adjust their own comprehension.

Possible Sentences--Start by choosing an expository article. For your planning purposes, you want to pull 10 key words and/or phrases. To make it work, think along the lines of:
  • people (avoid names)
  • places (names are ok)
  • problems
  • outcomes
Look! That's me and Suz with Bob Probst and Kylene Beers!
I suddenly feel very...short. 
Display the words for your kids and tell them that they should write 5 sentences incorporating all 10 words/phrases. The sentences should be their best guess as to actual sentences that might be in the upcoming reading. DON'T give them the article! Each sentence should use 2 or 3 words (3 is pushing it). For example, my students read an article about the winner of the 2013 Miss America pageant. They were given the following list:
  • Miss America
  • social media
  • Muslim
  • ignorance of the people
  • the first Indian American to do so
  • deserves better
  • after 9/11
  • embarrassing
  • beauty pageant 
  • prejudice
The second I gave them their task and told them the first pair to work in all 10 words (with reasonable sentences) would get a 100, my kids...my reluctant kids...were ALL over it! This was the Article of the Week, so they took it home to read for homework. 

When they brought it back, they took their original possible sentences and revised them to reflect the actual article. Again, they were all over this and had even read the article! My kids were able to do this, and they enjoyed it! 

While it wasn't a prop-my-feet-on-the-desk kind of break, it was nice to give them a reading task that was engaging and allowed them to feel immediate success. 

If you like this idea, check out my Probable Passage post!

Pow! Bang! WWAM!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 No comments
your curly companion, Suzanne
It's a bird!  It's a plane! It's poetry analysis!!  

Last year, half of my course load was Pre-AP English 2.  You read poetry, you take it through TPCASTT.  So how do you help struggling readers analyze poetry?  You WWAM it!


Here's how this process works:
What-Break the poem into 2-3 sections.  In groups, have students paraphrase the lines of the poem on a literal level.  *Emphasize the use of a dictionary to understand unfamiliar words. 

Weird-Have students highlight or squiggly underline anything that looks or sounds weird.  Look closely at what they’ve found.  Is it a simile? Metaphor? Rhetorical question? Fragment? *Why might the poet have chosen to use this device?*
Attitude-What is the author’s attitude (tone) toward what they are saying?  How do you know?

Message-In student’s own words, what is the poem about?  This answer is the subject.  What is the author saying about the subject?  Now we’ve found the theme. 

Whenever I'm first introducing this process, it is very teacher centered.  With time, I remove myself and students become more self-sufficient.  To assist with this, I made WWAM stations with directions on one side and an example on the back.  Station directions are included in the MovieSTAARs pack found here.

For a timed testing situation, I hope that students have internalized and can think through the What, Attitude, and Message sections.  What I want them to mark and spend time with is the Weird.  That's where the super powers lie in poetry. 

Raising The Bar With Recast

Friday, February 21, 2014 No comments
brought to you by Lori

It's the final day of our series...

When I was in college, I took only the math courses that I needed. Not only that, but I went to tutorials and I practiced formulas again and again and again. Repetition was the name of my game. But come test day, if the professor changed any little thing about the process, I was up a creek. I never owned the process. I didn't know why I knew what I knew or what I didn't know. My problem with complex math was [and still is] transfer. The same is true for our students when we think about their ability to read across genres, to play with organizational arrangements within their own writing or within the writing of a peer.

Introducing your 10th and final review strategy...recast! Recast sounds confusing, but let me explain. It is a thinking stragegy that directly supports transfer. Students will transform information by manipulating organizational patterns or changing scenarios. It is really a more of a planning strategy in that you decide what you need your kids to recast. Consider these options that are guaranteed to challenge your students.

READING--This is an extension of Nine Squares that I absolutely love. It's great for review because students must think of multiple choice questions in terms of details, inferences, and themes. Additionally, they must read a text carefully enough in order to complete the task. I combed through the released English I and English II reading tests to find questions that asked specific questions about inference, detail, and theme. There are quite a few, so I know it's important for my kids to be able to do this. You can download them here and use them after you've run the Nine Square activity. 

Two options for recast:
  • I printed them on sheets of colored paper and gave them to my kids to complete in teams of two. It makes for a nice gallery walk where students answer those questions generated by other teams.
  • Suz chose the printer setting to get 4 to a page so that they were smaller and could be easily passed from group to group.

WRITING--Present your kids with a single sentence. Gretchen Bernabei truisms would work well. For example perhaps the truism says: Few things are more important than family.

Now it's time to recast:

  1. Kernel a fictional story with the truism as the theme.
  2. Kernel an expository essay with that same truism as the thesis statement.
  3. Kernel a persuasive essay with that same truism as the thesis statement. Be sure to include a counterargument.
  4. For advanced students, write a poem with that same truism as the central message.

The Genetics of Genre

Thursday, February 20, 2014 No comments
your curly co-author, Suzanne

Genre is something uncovered when you look closely, deeply into the nitty-gritty make-up of a text.  It's the genetic makeup of the writing.

It is important for students to recognize the traits of various genres of literature and look at how they are similar and what makes them unique.  Good readers differentiate what they are looking for based on the purpose of each type of writing.  Struggling readers read everything the same way. 

The birth of the bookmark: I might have cried while watching students take a state reading assessment.  I was plagued by some big questions, and they got the best of me.  How did I learn that we don't read everything the same way?  How did these students seem to miss that memo?  How can can I teach this?  I blame the tears on the fact that it was my forth day of testing in a row, and that can seriously challenge anyone's sanity!

So I wiped away my tear and went to work on Genre Bookmarks.  I love these because they serve as a tangible reminder of what to look for and think about for a specific text.  A struggling reader is not going to go through a nine-step, labor intensive process. So we thought about three things that we most want students to look for and mark in each genre.  Students are given questions to consider and a symbol to mark where they saw this occur.  It guides them to pick up on what's most important for a particular text.

Aren't they pretty?!

They can be stored in your interactive notebook with this handy dandy library pocket that I bought at the dollar store in hopes that one day I would find it's perfect purpose.  Well, ta-da!

Okay...so where's the review in this?  Well, after a brief refresher of the unique qualities of each genre, have students sort released test questions to match the genre that they test.  

Let's practice:
  • What effect does Ella’s uncharacteristic behavior have on the resolution of the excerpt?  Fiction
  • The metaphor in the first stanza is used to emphasize that the—  Poetry
  • Which of these supports the idea that band members form strong bonds with one another?  Expository
  • The author wrote this article most likely to—  Expository 

It is important for students to pick up on text features and clues in the questions so that they focus on what's most important when they read.  Also, talking to your kids about test design gives them this sense of mastery and confidence going in.

I know what you're thinking...how do I get my hands on these bookmarks?!  Well, click right here my friends.

Check back tomorrow for our last day of...

And get caught up if you missed anything:

**On a random note, our Shared Readings (English I and II) are not available on TpT right now.  We took them down so that we can work an exciting opportunity for them.  Email us if you need anything.**

The Matrix Reloaded

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 No comments
Your Crazy Curly, Lori

To honor our notion that there is no new in review, today I bring you an oldie but a goodie. We don't have much time before our test, so every last bit counts. Our questions and student accountability are key. 

Re-introducing the Question Matrix...

Click here for a free digital download, and save yourself some time!
This scaffolded question grid can be used in a variety of ways to help your kids review key skills while maintaing a high level of rigor. How many different ways can you use the matrix? I've got a few for ya!

After reading a text:
  • Cut up the pieces of the matrix. Give all pieces to a small group in a bag. Each student draws two or three cards from the matrix and writes their own questions. For an optional extension, once questions are written, trade and answer.
  • Don't have time to cut and sort? Leave the matrix intact and give each group a dice [Or is it die if it's just one? That sounds so weird!] Roll the die on top of the matrix. Write a question wherever you land!
Revision after drafting:
  • Split the entire matrix among different members of your class so that each student gets one card. You can then set up clocking stations where kids can focus on a single paragraph and ask a question about improvement using their matrix card.
  • Put students together with a shoulder buddy and assign each student a number. Display the matrix but number it, so that each students uses the question stem that corresponds with his or her number.  
We were super professional in our professional development on Monday.
We're all working so hard right now, and Suz and I truly hope these strategies are encouraging to you. If all of our instructional goodies fail to lift you up, then maybe this unflattering picture will!

Let us know if you're able to use these strategies and what variations you add. Stay tuned tomorrow for more!

Get Inked

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 No comments
from the curly classroom of Suzanne

Today's relevant review strategy is one called Ink Think.  This allows students to think more deeply about a topic and get all their learning down on paper.  

In the middle of a sheet of paper- 8 1/2 x 11 or butcher- write the topic.  Students will organize everything they know about the topic (kinda like a bubble map).  The power in this activity (and what makes it so awesome) is that it is completed silently.  They "listen" to group members by carefully reading what others write.  This also allows quiet students the opportunity to shine.  Students should add details, examples and related information to flesh out the mind map (and thinking).

Instructionally, this allows the teacher to see what students know well (typically what is added quickly and/or is repeated) and where gaps lie (things that are absent or incorrect).  If posters have different topics, students can have a gallery walk and add to a different category.  

When this activity is completed on bulletin board paper, they can be posted in the hallway to benefit everyone.  

Thought-provoking questions

This idea came from the book Thinking Though Quality Questioning by Jackie Acree Walsh and ‎Beth Dankert Sattes.

Check out all of our review ideas: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Connect the Dots...La La La

Monday, February 17, 2014 1 comment
connected by Lori

Welcome to week 2 of our...

Purpose, perspective, themes, topics, actions, characters, etc.--Nothing is off-limits for this activity. Connect the dots is a perfect way to shift the focus from the plot of literature that you've read to the deeper connections that can be made between those pieces. It supports the wide reading across genres and asks students to transfer what they understand from one piece and connect it to similar ideas in other texts.

Have your advanced groups attempt an 'x' across the center.
Begin by having students choose 4 pieces of literature at random. This works well if you have a genre wall that you can easily allow students pull from. Look at one of my awesome 9th grade teachers! She color codes and lists everything her kids have read according to genre. [Love!] You could also have student look for connections between four Shared Reading excerpts.  You decide how you want the activity to work. 

  • Do you want to make cross-genre connections?
  • Do you want to make connections within the same genre?
Either way is fine. Choose the literature and then let kids talk it out and connect those dots! You'll be amazed at some of the connections they are able to make!

For a great extension, provide crossover short answer question stems and have students write their own short answer questions. Take it even further (perhaps in an honors class) by having them trade and answer each other's questions. I've given you a couple of stems to consider below:

  • What message is conveyed in [title] and [title]? Support your answer with evidence from the text.
  • Do you think [character/person] and [character/person] in [title] and [title] have anything in common? Support your answer with evidence from the text.
When we were kids, connect the dots was awesome because the end result was always a surprise. The same goes with this activity. Let your kids surprise you...in a good way!

P.S. I dated myself with today's title. If you're an 80s baby, then you've been singing PeeWee Herman's song in your head since you read it. I'm sorry or you're welcome!

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

Friday, February 14, 2014 No comments
your funny Valentine, Suzanne

First, let me start by saying...
We LOVE sharing our classrooms with you and cannot thank you enough for welcoming our resources and ideas into your own.  Each like, re-pin, and post read makes our HEART swell.

It's the end of our first week of...
Next week, we have five more strategies that will carry you through this homestretch.

Today lets look at a strategy that will have your kids rollin'- Cube It.  This idea was introduced by our instructional dean and can be adapted to work with any text or content area.  

What you need:
-student groups
-answer sheet

Here's how it works:
Provide students with an answer sheet numbered 1-6 or have them make their own by folding a colorful piece of paper into thirds and then in half.  Students will roll the die and circle the number they land on.  Note: there shouldn't be duplicates.  If a students rolls the same number, have them roll again.  Partners could roll three times to make sure all questions are taken; groups of three could roll twice.  For groups larger than three, have each student select their unique number, and remaining numbers can be answered together.  

They are responsible for answering the question that goes with the number they rolled.  They will report back to their group at the end of a designated period of time.  (Think Jigsaw.)  I type questions up on a Power Point slide, but you could make a copy for each group.  Here is the Cube It I did for an excerpt of Antigone:
It is SO easy to adapt for what you are working on!

Literature Circle Roles (Have them roll for a new role each period or week.)
1. Summarizer
2. Vocabulary Investigator
3. Travel Tracer
4. Character Chronicler
5. Illustrator
6. Key Questioner

Writing Review (used with a mentor text)
1.  Write (or record from reading) a complex sentence.
2. Write a rhetorical question that could be added to paragraph 2. 
3. Write a pitchforked sentence that could be used to start the essay.
4. Write (or record) a sentence that uses commas to set apart unnecessary information.
5. Rewrite sentences 15 and 16 as a compound sentence.
6. Rewrite sentence 4 so that it begins with a transition word. 

The possibilities are endless!  
How could you use this strategy in your classroom?

Getting the Last Word

Thursday, February 13, 2014 No comments
brought to you by Lori
Get caught up on days 1, 2, and 3.

Suzanne likes to be slightly dramatic sometimes. She has this whole bit where she pretends to be a kid who has just been asked to read. Seated in front of her kids, she looks everywhere but at her book, she whispers to a friend, she falls asleep [last year I watched her demonstrate this and she hit her head on the desk just a little too hard.] Funny thing is...you and I both know she's not too far from the truth. But what do we do about it? One of the reasons our kids miss test questions on their state assessment is simply because...well...they don't read. If they do read, then they are certainly not thinking about what they're reading. 

This comprehension strategy is used to encourage reflection during and after reading and helps with finding appropriate text evidence. To begin, distribute copies of the text you want to work with. Place students in small groups, asking them to read with the expectation that they mark several places that are interesting or simply that cause them to think. I would set a timer for this. Yes...your kids all read at different paces, but if you wait for everyone to finish, you'll never get done. Consider what you're reading and set a reasonable amount of time. 

When each student finishes reading, have them choose their favorite quote or piece of text evidence and copy it on the front side of the index card. Without talking, have them take a moment and write some thoughts on the back of the card. Offer some guidance by suggesting they think of a connection, a question, or even an extension of the original idea. I would time this as well. 4-5 minutes worked well for me.
Students re-enter the text to find moments they connected with. The pressure is on because now they have to have something to say!
Once their cards are completed, front and back, set expectations for the group conversation. If you use dice, each student rolls. The student with the highest number goes first. He will read his card but NOT his comment on the back. Moving clockwise, everyone else in the group gets to comment and then he gets the last word. He can read what's on his card, disagree or agree with what others have said, ask questions about the comment others have made, or simply read what's on his card. Repeat the process until everyone has read his comment. Again, I would put a time frame on this entire conversation. About 10 minutes was great for my kids. 

After they've discussed the article, kids can do any number of tasks with the text to demonstrate their understanding. The point is, you've empowered them by allowing them to talk about their own observations and listen to the observations of others.

Kids love getting the last word. This time, they're just doing it your way!

In the Hot Seat

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 2 comments
your curly comrade, Suzanne

Welcome to Day 3 of our blogging blitz!  Be sure to check out Day 1 and Day 2.
Especially around test time, I want my students to feel a strong sense of accountability.  Hot Seat is a questioning game where students are expected to be on their toes- ready to think and answer.  

To make this work, provide students with a deck of Say It cards as shown above.  You could provide questions or sentence stems to get your students talking.  I like these question stems from Kelly Gallagher's Deeper Reading:

  • What lesson(s) have we learned from a specific character?
  • What technique did the author use in this chapter to hold the readers' interest?
  • Why did the author write this passage/chapter/book?
  • How does the author use setting to advance the story?

Other supplies include dice, a text for independent reading, and a copy of the rubric.  

Either the teacher or students can chunk the text.  Students read until coming to the agreed upon stopping place.  Students will roll the die, and the person with the highest number is in the Hot Seat.  The student in the Hot Seat draws a card responds to the prompt listed.  Other students assess the response and provide feedback using a point system. (See rubric below.)  The student records their points, and the person with the most points wins a cool prize or pat on the back or high five or pride in their accomplishment.

To assess, have the student pick a question to take through the SAQ model and grade that.  
Tomorrow, check back for another high-energy, high-yield review strategy!  

It's Hip to be Square

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 2 comments
brought to you by Lori

It's Day 2 of our Relevant Review blitz! Be sure to check out Day 1's tips and tricks if you missed it.
As it comes closer and closer to test time, we become more and more terrified panicked dejected concerned about our students' progress and upcoming performance on their state assessment. Our instruction consists of militant rigorous review. I struggle to find the right words, slightly in jest. But only slightly. This is a hard time of year. We're stressed and the kids are...well not at all. Just when we need them to be rockstars, they're ready to make every day a mental vacation. But our instruction cannot and should not turn into drill and kill. If we continue to engage them and really push them to think, then we can give them the prep they need without cramming the test down their throats. That's boring and it never helps anyone. [But hopefully you read Suz's post yesterday. Because sometimes we must review the multiple choice, and yesterday she told you how to make it fun.]

Reading assessments, in part, test a student's ability to read a text, comprehend it, make inferences, draw out themes, and support all of those observations with appropriate details from the text. In a multiple-choice format, students are often faced with the following demands:
  • Choosing an appropriate theme.
  • Choosing which detail best supports an inference.
  • Inferring based on a given detail.
Instead of practicing this using multiple choice questions that students will never actually see on their test, the Nine Square activity allows students to practice these skills in an authentic and engaging format that allows for collaboration and small group talk. 

Of all the manipulatives I've made this year, these are pretty simple. Create a table in Word and...voila...easy to print, cut, and sort!

The activity works best with a picture book or a short fiction text. When we went to Lead 4ward's Relevant Review conference in Austin, Gayla Wiggins modeled the strategy with a cute picture book called The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, but you can do this with any text. I used it with my own students last week using The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson because I like the way it pairs with To Kill a Mockingbird

Teacher Prep: Choose a layered text. Any of our Shared Reading pieces would work well. Set up a 9x9 table in MS Word and dedicate 5 squares for details, 2 squares for inferences, and 2 squares for theme statements. Then, work backwards. Trust me...it's easier this way. Write your two theme statements first, then write your 5 details. From those details, draw out 5 inferences. Once your table is complete, print enough copies for the small groups in your class (7 is enough for me) and cut them out. Generating the content for the Nine Squares takes longer than you would think. If you'd like, click for a copy of my Nine Square for Woodson's The Other Side and teacher key. This is crunch time, people. Take it and use it. 

In the Classroom: Your materials are prepped, and you're ready to go! Remember this is review. You're not teaching your students anything new. Your first step is to review three key academic terms. I had my students go back and add these thinking questions to our visual dictionary.
  • Detail--What does it say?
  • Inference--What does it mean?
  • Theme--Why does it matter?
I like explaining it as a ladder, where you reach a higher meaning each time you climb to the next rung. Now you're ready to read the text.
  • Read the text aloud to students. There is no need to set a reading purpose, and there is no need to stop and clarify for students. This should be a cold read...much like a testing situation.
  • Pass out your Nine Square envelopes. While I pass out the envelopes, I like to tell my kids to talk about the details that they remember. 
  • Tell students to sort the squares into 3 categories--details, inferences, themes. Let them flounder for a bit and then narrow it down by telling them that there are 5 details, 2 inferences, and 2 themes.
  • Allow a bit more time to sort. Visit tables and ask students to justify sorting decisions. The conversation you hear is encouraging.
  • Put up your cheat sheet. Let kids adjust their sort to match your original intention. If a student disagrees with you, hear them out without penalty. Sometimes their argument can be convincing, but other times, it doesn't hold water. You should encourage students by letting them know that we all infer and think differently. [But still...sometimes a detail is a just a detail. Don't let them get away with too much.] Regardless of the discussion, everyone needs to fix their categories to look like yours before moving on. Here's where the fun happens.
  • Tell students to pick a theme statement. Now ask your kids to support that theme with two of the details. Listen to and validate the conversation that happens.
  • Tell students to pick an inference. Now support it with two details. Listen to the conversation. Ask certain tables to share out with others. 
  • Now pick two details and have students write their own inference.
  • Review all of the details and inferences and have kids generate their own theme statements.
We've bumped up the rigor by asking students to create an additional inference.

These student-generated themes and inferences can be posted on your white board or your door. If kids can do this, then you know they can answer those types of questions on the test.

For a great extension, you can have kids make their own Nine Square. I recommend providing a template with some portions already completed. Stay tuned to our Relevant Review Blitz, and I'll show you how to extend this with an additional activity! 

It is hip to be square! Trust me...I know. Let me know how it works for you! 

Time Warp

Monday, February 10, 2014 No comments
your curly co-author, Suzanne

This is totally crazy, but somehow we only have only 13 'A' days until STAAR testing.  But who's counting?!  Because of this time warp, we decided to do a blogging blitz on review strategies that your students will buy into.  

But first, a few rules for review:
Rule 1: There's no new in review.
Rule 2: You can't bore kids into learning.

Today, we tackle the ever engaging multiple choice section...with no kill and drill.  Yes, it's possible.  

First, have students read and work with a text of your choosing.  It can be a released item or one in your textbook.  They should have independent copies so that they can annotate and mark their evidence.  Instead of copying the boring, old multiple choice questions, type up each question and accompanying answer choices on a Power Point slide. (Side note: sometimes I will give them only the question stem and they write in their own answer.  Then they match up their answer with the MC options.)

To answer these questions, have students use Bam Boards.  The teacher reads through the question and answer choices.  Allow a minute (or slightly shorter) of think time.  With 10 seconds or so left, prompt students to choose an answer.  The timer goes off and BAM!- they reveal their answers.  This provides instant feedback to both you and the student.  I've noticed that their response accuracy improves dramatically after the first round.  Note: it is important to give students time to work with the question prior to using the Bam Boards.

Another option involves student groups and your new favorite "foldable". Take a Post-it and tear it into four pieces.  Boom!  Done.  I guess that'd technically be a tearable.  We're probably on to something here!  Students will label each piece A, B, C and D.  Read the question and choices from the slide.  Give students a minute of think time.  All students then put down their piece to show their answer when the timer goes off.  Working in groups allows for great discussion when all answers do not match up.  

A third option would be to take the multiple choice questions and make them into a Socrative quiz.  This free website and app allows you to create your own online quizzes and games.  The best part- it emails you a spreadsheet with student scores that can be copied into your gradebook.  Could you ask for a better perk?  

Check back tomorrow for a review strategy that has students looking closely a text details to build inferences and themes.  It is definitely a winner!


Thursday, February 6, 2014 No comments
your curly comrade, Suzanne

This post is late in coming, so let's pretend it's November, okay?  Great!  Every crisp Thursday in November we kept our doors open for several extra hours as we held our STAAR lock-ins, preparing for the December retest.  

We were targeting students that were not a part of an acceleration class or pull-out tutorial.  We chose this option based on these facts:
  • Kids won't come to teacher tutoring once a week. (We know this because we tried and failed.)
  • They also won't come on Saturdays. (We also know this because we tried and failed.)
  • They do come to school, so let's work on keeping them there. 
Students were given a schedule tailored to their needs.  We offered sessions for expository writing, literary writing (because it was still our reality),  persuasive writing, reading, and a writing workshop.  Each students was scheduled into three classes which ran for approximately 50 minutes each.  
Now, Lori and I can't seem to do anything without a theme, so we used old Hollywood as our inspiration to take the drama out of remediation. 

In our writing stations, students were shown a brief movie clip that inspired the prompt that they would be working with.  Students analyzed iconic movie song lyrics as poetry and completed Short Answer Questions.  

Students got movie theater candy in their first session, popcorn in the second, and we finished our time with pizza.  Yep, we were bribing them.  It's still works for me!
*We have an excellent At-Risk team that made all this possible.  They scheduled, contacted, located, followed up, and even served slices of pizza.  They totally deserve a standing ovation!

We had so much fun, we forgot to take any pictures.  I choose to believe we looked something like this:
This is probably pretty accurate.

But the real winner here is YOU!  We've packaged all our materials:
  • 3 expository prompts
  • 3 persuasive prompts
  • 3 reading texts and SAQs
  • WWAM poetry analysis stations
  • Autograph book cover
It's ready and waiting for it's debut at your upcoming tutorials.  Check them out here.

Be sure to check back next week as we start our Relevant Review blogging blitz.  Each day we offer a great review strategy that you can implement in your classroom in these days leading up to the test.

Two Curly Girls in Corpus Christi

Tuesday, February 4, 2014 No comments
brought to you by Lori...from a land of sun and palm trees...

This past weekend we found ourselves at the highly anticipated TCTELA conference in Corpus Christi (Texas Convention of Teachers of English Language Arts). We flew in late Thursday evening. Suzanne has got to learn how to travel. How this woman got through TSA with two [TWO] larger than quart size--and definitely not plastic bags--is entirely beyond me. I forgot a Dr. Pepper in my purse on the way back home and had to toss it and have my purse re-scanned. Whatever, Suz. Whatever. 

Our weekend brought incredibly full days, but we enjoyed every bit of it. We started off the greatness by listening to some interesting testing updates from Victoria Young, who we were happy see and hear for the first time. We got some affirmation that the type of Curly instruction that we offer is exactly what our kids need!
Don't be fooled. It looks sunny and beautiful, but true to Texas, by the time we left, it was rainy and cold.
The highlights of our weekend included a nice chat with our respected mentor and friend, Gretchen Bernabei. Again, this weekend did much to affirm what we've got going on in our classrooms and our goals as teacher leaders. Lunch on Friday with keynote speakers Christopher Meyers, and father Walter Dean Myers inspired us to connect students to books so that they can find their own stories within those pages. 

Saturday brought some pretty cool reading strategies that you know I'll totally share with you, but that's a whole other post. Our favorite presenter from Saturday was Dr. Lori Assaf from Texas State University. She has sparked an amazing writing initiative with equally amazing teachers at Chapa middle school in Hays CISD. Their session inspired the research project that I will conduct with my students in the spring. Again...don't worry...I'll share everything. 

We finished the conference at a fun, yet purposeful session with Jeff Anderson and Terry Thompson entitled Focus Pocus: How Instructional Phrases Work Magic. Essentially, it's a spin on administrative demands to post learning objectives. Instructional phrases are statements that the student owns and internalizes because you refer to them often. It is common language during instruction, conferring, revising...essentially every stage of the writing process that both you and your students use. We didn't get much time with it in training, but we're definitely excited to learn more and we'll certainly keep our eyes and ears out for instructional phrases.

Well...Dallas awaits. We're currently at our gate waiting to board, feverishly blogging in our matching coats. It's been a great trip, but I am ready to hug my girl and give her her new blank books from the convention that she will undoubtedly fill with literary magic. I'm ready to see my son who will scream and run toward me and not want me to let him go. [Sorry...I miss them, and I had to go there.]

Wherever you are, we encourage you to join your local professional organization. Coming together with a group of like-minded teachers is empowering, encouraging, and re-energizing. Corpus has been great, and now it's time to go home and continue to grow.